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  • Eric Ulken 9:16 am on August 22, 2009
    Tags: Google Inc., story ideas, web analytics   

    Search trends and geography 

    I know it’s been around for a year or more now, but I still can’t stop playing with Google Insights for Search, that small window into the universe of data that Google collects on user behavior. It’s a trend-spotter’s dream, and — particularly with its geographical filters — a potential source of story ideas for journalists.

    For example, I can see the fastest rising search terms in Los Angeles and Berlin in the past week.

    But what I’m finding fun right now is plugging in brand names and seeing where they’re strong. I offer, by way of example, some vehicle brands and maps showing search volume in the United States:

    The four-wheel-drive Subaru line is understandably popular in mountainous, cold-weather states:

    Geographic search trends for "subaru"

    Saab has some fans in New England, but that’s about it:

    Geographic search trends for "saab"

    Another ailing GM make, Hummer, still gets some interest in Nevada and Texas (I suspect the bump in interest in Michigan may be mostly from concerned GM stakeholders):

    Geographic search trends for "hummer"

    Toyota’s Prius, meanwhile, is especially popular in eco-conscious places such as California and Vermont:

    Geographic search trends for "prius"

    And the Vespa scooter craze seems to have taken hold on the West Coast and, inexplicably, Utah:

    Geographic search trends for "vespa"

    When you look at popularity over time for all five brands, you can clearly see how interest in the brands associated with fuel-sipping vehicles spikes during periods when fuel prices are high. No huge surprises here, but it’s fun to see how well search data tracks real-world trends.

    Have you used Google’s search trend data for story ideas? Share your tips in the comments.

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  • Eric Ulken 11:50 pm on April 16, 2009
    Tags: BusinessWeek Online, John Byrne, user engagement, web analytics   

    How BusinessWeek measures user engagement 

    How do you get past those squishy pageview and unique visitor metrics and instead measure how users actually respond to the content you produce? My interview on this topic with BusinessWeek Online editor John Byrne (whom I met in Perugia at the International Journalism Festival a couple weeks ago) is now up on OJR. An excerpt:

    Byrne: User engagement is how we nurture and build a community. Our reader engagement index is a comments-to-postings measure for a given month: So we will tally how many comments on X number of stories/blog posts that BusinessWeek.com published that month. This gives us a ratio figure that we track to determine our monthly reader engagement index and growth.

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